Before you scoff, hear us out!

By Betty Gold
August 28, 2019

Summertime is synonymous with grill season, and we’re here for it. But by August, I think we can all agree that we’re a bit burnt out on burgers, hot dogs, and chicken breasts. The easiest answer for shaking things up? Fish.

Fish—salmon steaks, tuna fillets, you name it—tastes great when grilled. The outside gets a delicious char; the inside stays tender and juicy. But time and again, we hear the same grievance about grilled fish: it falls apart when you touch or turn it. And rightfully so. Unlike sturdy, thick cuts of meat, fish is incredibly delicate and tends to stick to the grill grates.

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The first step in preventing this is to choose a heartier type of fish, as these will hold up best. Thick, skin-on salmon filets, halibut, snapper, and grouper are all good ideas.

The second important step for keeping fish from sticking is finding the right type of fat to coat it before you start to sear. We’ve always used oil, and it works OK—so long as you’re super gentle. But in this week’s episode of Hit or Myth, we set out to find something better. Our ingredient of choice? Mayonnaise.

Before you reel in horror at the idea of brushing fish with mayo before you grill it, hear us out. We read that mayo adheres to the outside of fish fillets and prevents it from sticking to the grill better than oil. We also heard that it helps maintain the internal moisture of your fish. There’s always the food waste angle here, too—how else are you going to use up that jar of mayo you bought for the Fourth of July party? Skeptical but open-minded, we set out to put this trick to the test.

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After patting our salmon steak perfectly dry (very important step!), we coated the entire exterior with mayonnaise using a pastry brush. We then seared the salmon in a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat for five minutes. When it came time to turn it, we were impressed—very little sticking so far. After five more minutes, we used tongs and a fish spatula together to remove the steak from the pan. It was surprisingly simple: it stuck a bit, but much less than if we had used oil as a coating. 

But the ultimate test is at the end when we taste the salmon, because we wanted to make sure you couldn’t taste the mayo after it was cooked. We know how polarizing mayo can be—those who hate the condiment absolutely cringe at the idea of eating it, so if you taste the mayo it’s a no-go.

The outcome: we couldn’t taste the mayonnaise at all, and it did indeed keep our salmon from sticking to the grill pan. It’s a hit. Now go forth and grill all the fish while you still can. Winter is coming!

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